Posts Tagged ‘Adelsverein’

Controversial letters to Germany

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

A letter written on May 2, 1845, two months after the first settlers arrived in New Braunfels, gives us details of those first two months in NB. The letter was written by Lt. Oscar von Claren to his sister in Germany. The end of von Claren’s life overshadows the optimism conveyed by him, as you will see.

When Prince Carl left to go back to Germany, amid festivities and cannon fire at the site of the Sophienburg, he offered to take 69 letters back to Germany. Mail at that time took three months or longer. According to author Everett Fey, writer of “First Founders”, there are 14 letters preserved and transcribed “and it is uncertain whether the rest of the letters were delivered to families. There is a good possibility that these 14 letters were used as advertising by the Adelsverein to promote their immigration project.”

The preserved letters are mostly positive about the project, so what happened to the other letters that were perhaps not so positive? Were only the letters of satisfied customers published?

Letters alleging that the Adelsverein was irresponsible in caring for the immigrants were also published in the newspapers. The Adelsverein fought back with replies by one of their own, Count Carl of Castell. He demanded publication of letters giving the “voice of truth” or the positive view.

One of those 14 letters was Oscar von Claren’s sent to his sister, Augusta, and she, in turn sent it to the Adelsverein. It was, no doubt, of value to them.

Oscar von Claren from Hanover arrived on the ship Apollo and came inland with the first group of emigrants. As a young single man, von Claren was chosen by Prince Carl for the responsible position of being in charge of artillery in Prince Carl’s Militia. He organized them to protect the emigrants, both on the way and in the settlement.

In his letter to his sister, von Claren described his arrival in New Braunfels in April 1845 and then of the celebration that took place in early May when Prince Carl was getting ready to leave for Germany. He said that at the Sophienburg (fortress), festive speeches were made and the cannons fired.

At the time of year of his arrival, it was too late to put in a garden on the lot that had been given to him. He put in a cow pen out of logs where the calves stayed while the cows roamed freely. It was not necessary to feed them. In the evening, the cows would automatically roam back to their calves in the pen. Even people that had no houses had pens with cows. Anyone who had more than 25 cows had to pay a fee to the state of Texas. Von Claren was waiting to get chickens; “four hens for $1.00 and a rooster for a third of a dollar”. “He who has cattle, chickens and a livable house has everything” he told his sister. Milk, eggs and butter were the main diet.

Von Claren was aware of unfamiliar noises, like the cutting of trees, plowing and the building of huts. He arose at five in the morning, lit a fire, dressed, cooked tea, baked bread and ate breakfast. After 11 o’clock in the morning the heat was unbearable so everyone stopped working. At this time he cooked dinner and then at three o’clock went to work again. After working, the evening meal was prepared and took a long time because corn meal bread had to be baked every day. It tasted bad when it was not fresh. It got dark around seven o’clock. Twilight, like in Germany, was not known in Texas and it got much darker. Von Claren told his sister that what he needed more than anything was tools, carpenter tools and tools for gardening. Also he needed seeds, fruit seeds of all kinds, lentils, and grape vines. He wished he had brought more with him. An immigrant only paid for the transportation from Bremen and the Adelsverein provided everything else to the colony.

He told his sister that during the land trip in from the coast, many of his clothes and part of his weapons were damaged due to not having them packed in boxes encased in tin. He now sleeps on animal hides and covers with a woolen cover instead of the linens he is used to.

About 300 Tonkawa Indians visit the settlement daily. They are at peace with the Germans and come into town to trade. Von Claren traded animal skins, hides and leopard fur. He traded gun powder, colorful chinz and calico, red and white beads, but not yellow or green (curious), and all kinds of toys made of tin or German nickel silver. Turtles and snakes demand high prices and he intended to sell them.

Their clothing was very thick and long boots were indispensable, but very expensive. He praised the beauty of the area, pretty forests next to the Guadalupe River, hills and prairies covered with wild flowers. Wood like cypress and cedar trees emit a magnificent odor and remind him of pencils. The beautiful blooms of the cactus would be greatly admired in Germany. At night, the air is filled with lightning bugs.

(Here’s the catch:) One must become accustomed to the great heat and large unpleasant animals that inflict deadly wounds, and the numerous rattlesnakes, some ten feet long and probably 15 years old. There are also a large number of alligators, so bathing in rivers is dangerous. He shot a 14 foot alligator. Tarantulas, large spiders that “runs around with the snakes and scorpions” in the woods, have a disagreeable stinger. Finally there is a caterpillar that crawls over the skin.

In May of 1845, there are 400 people living in the settlement. He would like to have friends and family with him “with whom he could cultivate a companionable relationship”.

By the time his sister received his letter, von Claren had been brutally killed and scalped near Live Oak Springs. He and two companions were returning to NB from Austin and while camping, a band of natives attacked the three. Wessle got away and led the Rangers to the site of the massacre. Von Claren and von Wrede were buried there.

Count Carl of Castell as a young man.  As a member of the Adelsverein, he was responsible for promoting immigration.

Count Carl of Castell as a young man. As a member of the Adelsverein, he was responsible for promoting immigration.

Hermann Spiess follows Meusebach as commissioner general

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Hermann Spiess became the third Commissioner General of the Adelsverein, following Prince Carl and John Meusebach. Spiess had a more exciting life than the other two. Why don’t we know a lot about him? Why don’t we have a Spiess Street? For certain, he was on the Adelsverein’s slippery slope downward in Texas. There was only one more Commissioner General after him, L. Bene and then the whole Adelsverein folded.

Meusebach, as second Commissioner General, tried to resign several times to no avail. The Adelsverein wouldn’t let him. Finally, because of many failures of the original plan for Texas, the Adelsverein accepted Meusebach’s resignation and decided to give up on the whole Texas affair. But they still needed someone to close out their business affairs in Texas. Hermann Spiess was born in Offenbach-Hesse Darmstadt, Germany in 1818. The Adelsverein chose Spiess, who was familiar with Texas because he had traveled to Texas earlier in 1845 and ‘46 before returning back to Germany. It was at the time when he returned to Germany that he became acquainted with the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants (Adelsverein). In July of 1847 he traveled to Texas to become the third Commissioner General.

When Spiess arrived in New Braunfels, for the first 20 months, he lived in the boarding houses of Holekamp and Thomae. Soon in 1849 he bought land three miles above New Braunfels in the Waco Springs area on the west bank of the Guadalupe River. Here he set up a sawmill and cypress shingle mill near the area between Slumber Falls Camp and the first crossing. In 1852 he leased these mills to Elijah Hanis and Erwin Braune.

In 1849 Spiess, along with Rev. Louis Ervendberg and L. Bene, established the Western Texas Orphan Asylum near what is now Gruene. At this time his sister, Louise, was staying with him on an extended visit at Waco Springs.

Spiess’ wife Lena had quite an interesting background herself. She was captured by Comanches in Mexico. Dr. Ferdinand Herff supposedly removed a cataract from the eye of an Indian chief and he was given this six-year-old girl as a thank you gift. Spiess adopted the child to take care of her.

A story in the New Braunfels Herald on November 7, 1968, quotes Oscar Haas as finding a paper in the Spiess files noting that a group of settlers meeting with Comanches had two captive children, one being Lena. She was placed in the care of a housekeeper of the Coreth family. Quoting Lena, the article says she earned the love and sympathy of the women of the house. Spiess took Lena to live with him and his sister, Louise.

When Louise left to go back to Germany, Lena was taken to stay at the Ervendberg’s orphanage that was set up as a home for the orphaned children of the colony. The paper said Lena was happy there, improved her German and enjoyed the company of children her age. In 1852 she returned to Spiess’ home at Waco Springs where they married. Several accounts of this story had several different dates and ages for Lena. It’s not definite how old she was as different accounts give different dates.

This next story relating to Spiess upholds the statement “Truth is stranger than fiction”. Spiess was appointed Commissioner General and the brief period before he accepted this position, when there was no Commissioner General in New Braunfels, a man named Dr. Schubert took advantage of the situation and announced that he was now the Commissioner General. He had been appointed by Meusebach as the Colonial Director for Fredericksburg, but due to many complaints, was removed from that position by Meusebach. Schubert now made his way to Nassau Plantation in Fayette County, the farm that belonged to the Adelsverein. This property was purchased with the idea that it would be used to raise crops to sustain the emigrants in the colonies.

Schubert felt that he would become more powerful if he ruled from Nassau Plantation. He surrounded himself with men of questionable character and Spiess heard stories of wild parties and abuse of slaves going on at the farm. He decided to take back the farm that Schubert claimed he had leased. Spiess and several men attacked the occupants at night. They left New Braunfels and hid out on the outskirts of the farm. Schubert got wind of the coming attack and he and his men were prepared for a fight.

In the end, there was a shoot-out, two persons were killed, one on each side. On Spiess’ side, the one killed was the artist Caspar Rohrdorf and on the other was a friend of Dr. Schubert. Spiess and his crew had to leave without the success of taking back Nassau Plantation.

This was not the end of the story. Shortly thereafter, Spiess was accused of murder. He took flight and hid for months in the area of the upper Guadalupe. Finally when things calmed down in Fayette County, Spiess appeared in the court in LaGrange where he was tried and acquitted. Schubert’s true identity was revealed as Frederick Armand Strubberg and he was not a doctor, but a cigar maker instead. Some think that this revelation helped acquit Spiess. The Nassau plantation was eventually claimed by creditors and disposed of by court action. Schubert, or Strubberg, returned to Germany where he wrote novels about Texas and sold the artist Rohrbach’s paintings which he had confiscated.

Because of bad health, Hermann and Lena Spiess and seven children moved to Missouri and then to California. Spiess died in the 1880s and Lena about 1910.

New Braunfelser Margie Hitzfelder was born on the property that at one time belonged to Spiess and now belongs to Bob Pfeuffer. Her father, Hilmar Kraft, worked for Bob Gode who owned the property. Gode was Pfeuffer’s grandfather.

Nothing is left at Waco Springs indicating that Hermann Spiess had ever been there except cypress trees.

Hermann Spiess, third General Commissioner of the Adelsverein and wife, Lena.

Hermann Spiess, third General Commissioner of the Adelsverein and wife, Lena.

Roemer’s insight in Texas, 1846

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Much has been written about the Indians of Texas, especially the Comanches. No one has given us more information than Dr. Ferdinand Roemer. In the field of research, Dr. Roemer becomes a primary source in which a person is actually present at the event being researched. All other sources are secondary in nature. Dr. Roemer gave us a first-hand account of the Comanches in his book “Texas 1845-1847”, published two years after his sojourn in Texas.

Roemer’s first person account was made possible by Prince Carl who contacted the Berlin Academy of Sciences and requested, on behalf of the Adelsverein, a survey of the geology of Texas. The Berlin Academy responded by sending 27- year- old Ferdinand Roemer on the recommendation of famous scientist, Alexander von Humboldt.

After arriving in Texas in 1845, Roemer made the acquaintance of other scientists in the area such as Ferdinand Lindheimer, Nicholas Zink, Louis Ervendberg, and John Meusebach who took Prince Carl’s place as Colonial Director. All of these men played a major part in the early days of New Braunfels.

It was on the sojourn with Meusebach in 1846, that Roemer made his personal observations of the Comanches. Meusebach was attempting to open up the land on the Llano and San Saba Rivers to emigrants by making a peace treaty with the Comanche chiefs. Roemer was at this important accomplishment by Meusebach and had the opportunity to observe the Comanches first hand.

Meusebach traveled to Fredericksburg, followed by Roemer who had been slightly delayed. Roemer stayed in Fredericksburg a few days before he left with the agent of Indian affairs for the U.S. Government, Major Neighbours. Neighbours was told to warn Meusebach to abandon his plan to meet with the Comanches, but Meusebach had already left Fredricksburg.

Roemer and Neighbours eventually caught up with the Meusebach group on the outskirts of the San Saba valley. They set up a camp and soon after entering the San Saba valley, a group of Comanche warriors visited them and inquired as to their purpose. After mutual greetings were exchanged, a royal reception was accorded the Meusebach group with 80 to 100 Indians, dressed in their festive war attire.

On the other side of the river, Roemer visited the camp village of the Comanches. The tents arranged in an irregular fashion with several hundred horses nearby, were made of 14- foot high poles crossing at the top with an opening to let the smoke out. These poles were covered with buffalo hides and a small door made of bearskin. The nomadic Comanches never settled down in one place because hunting buffalo was their main activity. These tents could be taken down quickly, placed on the poles, and then pulled by horses. Many early roads were made by the dragging of these poles.

Comancheria, as the hunting ground was called, was located generally between the upper course of the Red River and the Rio Grande. These most powerful of Indians at one time, numbered 10,000. The “lords of the prairie”, as they called themselves, used horses brought by the Spaniards for their buffalo hunts and warfare .They mastered the art of hanging on one side of the horse, using it as a shield as they used their bow and arrow and long spear. Keeping control of this large area of Comancheria was their main occupation in order to keep other Indian tribes and whites from infringing on their territory.

Roemer had an opportunity to view the habits of the Comanches. Their clothing was much like that of other Indian tribes – leggings, moccasins, breech clout (curtain), and a buffalo robe. (By the time of Roemer’s visit, many presents of cotton shirts and woolen blankets had been given by the U.S.) The wives were slaves to their chief and their main function was to take care of the children and sew decorations on the costumes for the men. The men wore their hair in a long braid on the back of the head, but the women’s hair was cropped. The Comanches scorned the use of alcohol and believed that the use of it would someday be the inevitable extinction of the “Red Race of North America”.

In his book, Roemer recalls a famous Comanche story from 1840. The small village of Linville was on Lavaca Bay. The inhabitants were few and when they heard that the Indians were coming their way, they abandoned their homes and stores. The Indians seized everything they could get on their pack horses and retreated towards the hills. The news spread and a number of armed settlers pursued them to retake the plunder. As the makeshift army found the Indians, they were wearing the stolen silks, top hats, and umbrellas making quite a comical sight. The Indians were finally overtaken close to San Marcos. Many were killed on both sides and the cotton and silk goods were scattered over the prairie. This became known as the Battle of Plum Creek. Local author, Janet Kaderli, wrote a book about the Battle of Plum Creek in her children’s story, “Patchwork Trail”. This battle was the last large battle of the Comanches in South Texas.

Legend claims that the Comanches were direct descendants of the subjects of Montezuma in Mexico and migrated north when Cortez destroyed the Mexican Empire. Supposedly when they came to the Rio Grande, they looked across the river to the other side and called out “Tehas!”. In the Comanche language, this word means “happy hunting ground, the home of departed spirits”. Thus Texas was their new home. This is one of many legends about the origin of the word.

After Meusebach made the treaty with several Comanche chiefs, he is given credit for opening up this area to settlement. Roemer was sent to give a report of the geology of Texas. He did this, plus a description of the animal and plant life. Most of all, he provides us insight with the Comanches.

The Comanche warrior. Patricia S. Arnold, artist.

The Comanche warrior. Patricia S. Arnold, artist.

Post office has evolved in 100 years

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

An extremely important building in downtown New Braunfels has been saved and renovated by Pat and Becky Wiggins. It is the old Post Office building on the corner of Castell and Mill. It now serves a new purpose, being McAdoo’s Restaurant. The owners are applying for a subject marker with the Texas Historical Commission. This subject marker commemorates the postal system in New Braunfels.

In his 8th report to the Adelsverein, Prince Carl said that some postal arrangements had to be made between Galveston and the new settlement of NB “since the Texas Post is dependent on the weather and more or less on the amount of whiskey the mail driver had consumed and could, therefore, be very uncertain.”

Perhaps Prince Carl’s statement had something to do with the location of the very first post office. Count Arnold-Henkel von Donnersmark came to NB with Prince Carl and built a hotel/saloon on a lot across the street from the present McAdoo’s Restaurant. Donnersmark made quite a lot of money by buying barrels of whiskey in San Antonio and selling it to emigrants. Von Donnersmark’s building served as the first post office in the new settlement with C. W. Thomae acting as the first postmaster. In 1851 Adolph Benner became the next postmaster, and when he died, his wife became the first post- mistress (There was only one other woman serving as postmistress in NB - Charlsie Witham in 1927). Mrs. Louise Benner served until after the Civil War, at which time she was replaced by Christian Holtz. During Reconstruction, all public servants that had served in the Confederacy were replaced.

After that, the post office was in various places -the bus station, the courthouse, Seele’s residence, and Pfeuffer’s store. In 1915, Pres. Woodrow Wilson signed a law appropriating $50,000 to build a post office in New Braunfels. The Secretary of Treasury at that time in charge of post offices was, surprise, William G. McAdoo, hence the later McAdoo’s Restaurant.

The lot for the new building was purchased from Adolph Henne who also owned the lot across the street where the Donnersmark building had been. The San Antonio firm of Weston & Kroeger bid of $40,949 was accepted and the work was to be completed in 15 months. Supervisor for the whole construction job was Murray M. Davis.
The post office in downtown served the community of NB from 1915 to 1985 at which time, needing more space, it moved to Seguin St. where it remains. The old building was eventually sold to Pat and Becky Wiggins who took on the gigantic task of restoration.

After months the restaurant opened for business. All furnishings inside the building had been removed. Every bit of metal, including inside doors and wood was restored, repurposed or put in storage. The long leaf pine floors were preserved as was the Marble Falls pink and grey granite. Some of the grey granite from the restrooms was used as the bar countertop. Outside the back door was the loading area which is now the porch. In one corner of this porch, you can see a hot water heater. It’s not any old hot water heater; it was used to burn trash to heat water for the showers. I know, you’re thinking they burned garbage. No, there wasn’t much of anything in the post office except paper.

To the right of the lobby on the first floor was where money was handled - savings bonds, money orders, etc. This is now the bar. Behind the lobby in the back half of the building was the workroom and also female employee restroom. To the left of the lobby was the postmaster’s office with private bathroom.

To me, the most interesting section of the post office was the basement. It was not accessible to the public when it was a post office. It was as large as the building upstairs. There was a Civil Service room where people could apply for federal jobs and take care of anything that had to do with the federal government. The basement housed a giant boiler with its coal fuel room.

There was a room that was called the swing room. Working shifts, sometimes 12 hours, with no air conditioning, the letter carriers often rested in the swing room. There was a shower for them to bathe in the men’s restroom nearby.

Now we come to a really intriguing practice in those days. The postmaster’s office on the first floor had a closet that was always locked. On the other side of this door was a ladder that led to the passageway called a lookout on the building plan, but mostly called the “catwalk” by those who knew about it. This catwalk was a passageway above the entire building, over all floors and even over the restrooms and extended into the basement. The catwalk was not lighted in order to keep a person from being seen as they looked down through louvered “peep holes”. The employees were being watched because a great deal of money was handled in the post office.

Once a month, unannounced, the postmaster, with the only key to the catwalk, was told to take the firemen and custodial staff to clean. The postmaster and his staff were also spied on by the representatives of the Federal Postal System. These men arrived during the night, entering from the basement into the catwalk and did their observing undetected, leaving again during the night. If you look up at the ceiling in the main restaurant, you can see double rails on which the catwalk hung. The Wiggins’ removed the catwalk. Thank you!

By 1984 the old post office had run out of room. The building was sold and a new post office was built on Seguin Ave. When you are at McAdoo’s, look around and you can appreciate the amount of work that went into this project. The historical marker will commemorate 100 years of this building in 2015.

Dedication of the New Braunfels Post Office at 196 N. Castell St. in 1916.

Dedication of the New Braunfels Post Office at 196 N. Castell St. in 1916.

Sts. Peter and Paul church family relations go back generations

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Prince Carl, on behalf of the Adelsverein, was given the responsibility of establishing two churches in the new settlement of New Braunfels, one Protestant and one Catholic. They were to be established at the same time, but that didn’t happen. Prince Carl engaged Rev. Louis Ervendberg as the Protestant pastor on the coast even before the group moved inland, but could not find a Catholic priest. Meanwhile to satisfy the religious needs of the early settlers, the Protestants and Catholics met together under the leadership of Rev. Ervendberg.

Finding a Catholic priest was difficult. When the prince arrived in the United States in 1844, he visited the archdiocese of Boston and Baltimore, the only organization in America at that time, looking for a priest. When he arrived in Galveston he became acquainted with Catholic Bishop Odin, the Catholic Prelate of Texas, who told him that there were no priests available for the settlement .The two traveled extensively together and became good friends. According to Ferdinand Roemer, “Odin travels continually about the country, visiting the Catholics living scattered in the various parts of the country. Fearlessly and tirelessly he traverses the lonesome prairies on horseback”…

The eventual location of the Catholic Church on Castell and Bridge Sts. has deep historic roots in New Braunfels. From a translation of Prince Carl’s report to the Adelsverein on the 27th of March, 1845, he says this: “Thirty-one wagons have arrived, and I am expecting the last half of the immigrants within a few days. I had an encampment erected on a bluff overlooking Comal Creek. For its protection I think it urgent that three sides be enclosed by palisades, whereas the fourth side is amply protected against attack by the high steep bluff of Comal Creek.”

Nicholas Zink, an educated engineer and surveyor, was given the job of laying out the streets and lots of New Braunfels. He helped set up this first camp of the immigrants. It became known as the Zinkenburg. “Burg” in English means “castle, fortress, stronghold” just like in Sophienburg the “burg” means castle.

After the settlers moved out to their own lots, the Zinkenburg became the site of the first Catholic Church. In 1847, the congregation built a temporary hut of wood and it served for two years as the first church building. This little building was on the site of the present parking lot abutting Bridge Street. It became a Catholic school when a permanent church building was constructed.

After two years, in 1849, Bishop Odin arranged for the first permanent church building. He stated that it was his intention to build the church with his own funds and he asked the Adelsverein to give him the necessary ground for the erection of a building in the city. There were only two other Catholic churches in Texas at this time, Galveston and San Antonio.

This church known as the Walnut Church was closer to the back of the property above the Comal Creek. The building was built by Heinrich Meine and built of black walnut, a hard wood that was known to be prevalent on the Guadalupe River. The building was 35 feet by 25 feet. Newly arrived, Father Gottfried Wenzel, was assigned to New Braunfels. Church archivist Everett Fey states that the Walnut Church served the congregation from 1849 through the Civil War. At that time the church was called St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles. Now the congregation had outgrown the Walnut Church.

Once again, Bishop Odin, seeing a need for expansion, dedicated the cornerstone in 1871 for a new stone church. According to Fey, the stone used to build this church was purchased from the County from the newly torn down Jail.

Now here’s an interesting story. What happened to the Walnut Church? In order to allow services of Mass, Baptism, Confirmation, Weddings and Burials to continue uninterrupted, the stone church was built around and over the Walnut Church. There was room enough inside for the smaller church to be free standing.

When the stone church was complete in 1874, there was no longer need for the Walnut Church. A notice in the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung announced that wood from the Walnut Church would be auctioned off in the church parking lot. The church would literally be pulled out the front door one log at a time. At this point, the church changed its name to the present one, Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

The space left by the removal of the Walnut Church greatly increased the size of the church and over the next three decades new altars and stained glass windows, now numbering 22, were added. In 1963 the size of the church was doubled. The final addition took place in 2000.

Many long-time members of Sts. Peter and Paul can claim family relationships going back generations. Everett Fey, who has worked on the church’s extensive archives for years, can stand where the Walnut Church once stood and think back to his g-g grandparents, Stephan and Margarethe Klein who worshipped there. A few steps further into the church, his grandfather, Theodore Wenzel, was the Sacristan in the first stone church. He moves up closer to the altar where his brother, Fredric Fey, was ordained a Deacon, and then finally to the most recent altar where his daughter, Janice, recently married.

A church rededication took place five years ago in 2009 on the site of where the Walnut Church once stood.

The Walnut Church built in 1849. The cedar fence was possibly part of the palisade from the original Zinkenburg, the first camp site in New Braunfels.

Lindheimer classified 38 new plants

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Seldom do individuals have clubs or anything named after them. A person becomes famous because of something outstanding that they have done for the advancement of society. All you historians out there and those that have a passing interest in history know the name Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer. This extremely interesting person has been the object of my curiosity for quite a while.

Lindheimer, known as the “Father of Texas Botany”, has 38 plants containing his name. Several organizations in New Braunfels have his name as their chapter names, and his picture is larger than life on a downtown mural. He is buried in the Comal Cemetery and his Texas Centennial headstone was given by the State of Texas. What did he actually do for the community? Let’s look first at his background:

Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer was born the 21st of May, 1801, in Frankfurt am Maine in Germany. He came from a wealthy family and was educated at the Prussian University at Bonn. At age 25 he left the university to teach at a boys’ school. At this school in 1832, a student riot occurred. At that time there was much dissatisfaction in the way German states were governed, especially among the young people. In this case, the government just closed down the school and the teachers were asked to leave the area. Lindheimer and other educated men decided to emigrate to the United States.

Eight men of high intellect and high education level migrated to a farm called Belleview Farm in Illinois. These men, including Lindheimer, soon tired of the life of idleness and headed south, bound for New Orleans with the idea of coming to Texas . He then boarded a ship and eventually landed on the Mexican coast at Vera Cruz where he started botanizing (collecting plants) in a big way. He stayed there for 18 months.

Lindheimer then involved himself in the Texas War of independence. He enlisted in April, 1836, and was discharged December 1837. His certificate of discharge describes him as a teacher, 5’8” tall, with dark hair and blue eyes. After this military stint, he bought a small farm outside of Houston, but in his own words, ‘was a failure at farming”. Farming and botanizing are two different things and he preferred botanizing.

In 1841 Lindheimer began his correspondence with well-known Illinois botanist Dr. George Englemann. This acquaintance became a lifetime of selling plants to Englemann, who as a professor and doctor, had the means to publish the information that Lindheimer sent to him. Lindheimer showed from the start that he had a keen ability to collect, describe in words and even illustrate plants. A letter to Englemann mentions a woman in Lindheimer’s life. She is not named. He calls a person named Ann his child. No evidence of a child has been found in records. There are no birth records. Could Ann be the woman?

Lindheimer met Prince Carl at Industry not far from Houston. He decided to join the Adelsverein. In that group was Rev. Louis Ervendberg and their friendship and interest in botany lasted their lifetimes.

The Adelsverein granted Lindheimer a large section of land for the services performed for that organization. Now he could botanize full time. The Lindheimer house that you see on Comal St. is on the site of the original log cabin. Maps show a large area around this area called the Botanical Garden. He married Eleanore Reinarz who according to writer Minetta Altgelt Goyne in her book “A Life among the Texas Flora”, was “sometimes difficult”. He was becoming a valuable member of the community “despite what seems to have been some eccentricities”.

In early fall of 1845 famed botanists Asa Gray and George Engelmann published results of Lindheimer’s 1843 and 1844 collections. There are 38 plants named after him and the one that we know best is “Lindheimeria texana” (or Lindheiumeria texensis), the Texas yellow star. It’s not difficult to see why this flower is so popular.

In 1850, Lindheimer became editor and eventually owner of Neu Braunfelser Zeitung. The first issue was on Nov. 12, 1852. The newspaper had difficult financial times the whole time he was editor. During the Civil War, he was influential in the secessionist movement. Although against slavery, he was an adamant “states righter” and did not want the federal government making decisions for the state. Comal County was the only predominantly German community that joined the Confederacy. The decision to secede from the union was a controversial one.

He retired from the newspaper in 1872. He is remembered for more than being the “Father of Texas Botany”. Always on the side of freedom, he was an advocate of education for all. He was on the committee pushing for the establishment of the NB Academy and for the Texas Legislature to levy taxes for the financial support of public schools.

When Ferdinand Lindheimer died in 1879, he was buried in the Comal Cemetery surrounded by family members and the flowers that he loved. Most of the information in this article came from Goyne’s book, “The Life among the Texas Flora” available in Sophie’s Shop at the Sophienburg. Goyne’s footnote explanations read almost like “the rest of the story”.

Self-portrait drawn by Ferdinand Lindheimer while in Germany.

Self-portrait drawn by Ferdinand Lindheimer while in Germany.

Letter to Prince Carl

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

It’s the Silver Anniversary of Weihnachtsmarkt. Can you believe it? For 25 years the Sophienburg has been putting on this event. Weihnachtsmarkt means “Christmas Market”. Patterned after the Christmas Markets in Germany, the purpose is to allow tradesmen to offer customers goods and gifts for Christmas gift-giving. Of course, our purpose is also to help keep the doors open to the Museum and Archives. The event will be at the Civic Center from Friday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, Nov. 24.

There are some unexpected connections between Weihnachtsmarkt and the Civic Center. Stretch your imagination and see if you can guess the first connection.

Karl Matern

In 1844 when the first group of immigrants on the ship Johann Dethardt arrived in Galveston, there was a young man aboard named Karl Matern. He was typical of the single first emigrants looking for a new life. Early in March, Prince Carl went to San Antonio looking for land to buy and bought the Veramendi Tract (Comal Tract) from the Juan Veramendi heirs. Karl Matern accompanied Prince Carl on this trip. As a first founder of New Braunfels, Matern received Lot #63 from the Adelsverein, on which he built a log cabin without using nails. He had been trained in forestry in Germany.

A year later Matern attended a picnic in Austin County where he met his future wife, Ulrike Fuchs. After they married in 1853, the couple moved to land on the Colorado River in Burnet County where her family had settled. Matern was gone from New Braunfels and so was his little log cabin.

Now you have connection #1. Lot #63 is where the Civic Center now stands and I’m sure lots of nails were used in construction. In front of it is the statue of Prince Carl. This is where Weihnachtsmarkt will be held.

Alonzo Garwood

About the time the Matern left New Braunfels, a child, Alonzo Garwood, was born in Bastrop, Texas. He was destined to have a successful medical practice in New Braunfels. Dr. Garwood built a grand home on the corner of Seguin and Garden Sts. sometime in the mid-1920s. The lot number was #63. He married Irene Pfeuffer, the daughter of Senator Georg Johann Pfeuffer and Suzanah Gravis and two children were born to the couple – Lucille in 1885 and George in 1889.

After Irene’s death, Garwood married Bertha Harpstrite. When Dr. Garwood died in 1932, his widow lived in the house until her death.

After several owners, the property was purchased in 1969 by the City of New Braunfels, including most of the block, that included lot # 63.

Chamber of Commerce

Fast forward to an ad in the l00th Anniversary of the Neu Braunfelser Herald-Zeitung in 1952. This ad stated that the Chamber of Commerce began in 1920 when the town was a “neat little town” of 3,590 to almost 15,000 in 1952 (today’s population is at least six times that amount). In its infancy, NB had ideal living conditions, was favored by nature, and was strategically located in the heart of Texas. Originally called the Merchants Association, the Chamber of Commerce organization became the Board of City Development and eventually the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce.

Now go way back in time. As long as commerce existed, traders grouped themselves together for protection and then eventually to set up rules of governing the conduct of trade. As a world-wide organization, the Chamber goes back to the end of the 17th century in Marsaille, France when the city council formed an association of traders.

In the British Isles, it was in Glasgow, Edinburg, Manchester, and London in 1881. In Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm saw the advantages of such organizations for promoting trade. Its success spread over Germany.

The oldest Chamber of Commerce in America was formed in New York in 1768 and was chartered by King George of England and by 1870 there were 40 U.S. Chambers. Each was an association of tradesmen for promotion of the sale of goods. When businesses realized that their success depended on a healthy community, the Chamber of Commerce became a true community organization. That’s true of the New Braunfels Chamber. To attract new industries and to involve the community in governmental affairs on a local, state and federal level became major goals for Chamber programs.

Our Civic Center opened its doors in 1971. Most of the building is smack-dab in the middle of lot #63.


Now let’s get back to Weihnachtsmarkt. Eighty years ago the Sophienburg Museum and Archives was organized for the purpose of preserving the unique history of New Braunfels and Comal County. Weihnachtsmarkt began in 1989 as a primary fund raiser.

The Civic Center was the location of the event. During the expansion of the Civic Center, Weihnachtsmarkt was held as a one year event in the Wursthalle. Although the atmosphere was charming using huge murals of Germany, the event returned to the new Civic Center in 2008. More geared to this type of event, Weihnachtsmarkt has been there ever since.

The sounds and smells of Weihnachtsmarkt will put you in the mood for the holidays. Sophie’s Kaffee Shop gives you an opportunity to eat and rest in between shopping. There is so much variety in the shopping and if you want to experience old world Christmas charm, come to Weihnachtsmarkt.

Letter to Prince Carl:

Dear Prince Carl,

Perhaps you can be with us in spirit at Weihnachtsmarkt. We think you would like what we have done at Sophie’s Castle on the hill. We will use the money we make at Weinhachtsmarkt to keep alive the history of the community you helped found.

The Sophienburg Museum and Archives

Dr. Alonzo Garwood home on Seguin Ave. Lot #63

Dr. Alonzo Garwood home on Seguin Ave. Lot #63

The rise an fall of the Darmstadt

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Called by some, “a catastrophic failure of dreamers”, the organization of about 40 intellectuals, university fraternity members and freethinkers banded together with a common cause. They were called “Darmstadters”, or the “Society of the 40” and their plan in 1847 was to organize a communistic utopian settlement in Texas.

The group of about 40 young men organized in the town of Darmstadt, Germany. Why 40s? Because there were roughly 40 of them in the 1840s.

Why freethinkers? Because their liberal ideas were very much against the norm in the small principalities that would later become united Germany. The freethinker movement claimed to be against political and religious tyranny. The Darmstadters wanted to create a classless society with no ruler and guiding themselves by common collective consent. There would be no private property.

The organization of the Darmstadt group of the 1840s was encouraged by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, John O. Meusebach, and Hermann Spiess, the first three commissioner-generals of the Adelsverein. Prince Carl and Hermann Spiess made speeches at the Universities of Giessen and Heidelberg about setting up a utopian type socialistic colony (The word Utopia was coined by Sir Thomas More four hundred years ago in which he described a perfect society). Prince Carl also made speeches at the Industrial School at Darmstadt. He said Texas would be perfect for their communistic and socialistic ideas of freedom and equality; it was a young republic and susceptible to new ideas.

The young university fraternity men’s social life was made up of a fondness for sword dueling, singing, drinking grog (combination of weak beer and rum), and talking. Immediately I pictured a scene from Romberg’s musical “The Student Prince” with its well-known song “Drink, Drink, Drink”. Five men gradually emerged as leaders – Gustav Schleicher, Ferdinand von Herff, Hermann Spiess, Friedrich Schenk, and Julius Wegner. Von Herff had the potential to become a famous surgeon and Hermann Spiess, a naturalist, would become Meusebach’s successor as commissioner- general. Spiess and von Herff first met in the 1830s at the Gymnasium (high school) in Darmstadt.

Spiess had traveled through the United States for two years in 1845-46. He visited NB, then returned to Germany and met with von Herff in Darmstadt. Von Herff was part of a social circle of idealists including Alexander von Humbolt, the Grimm brothers, and poets Bettina von Arnim and Hoffman von Fallensleben.

These endless talks on the university scene led to the intellectual groundwork of the Darmstadt group and finally created the resolve to leave Germany and move to the U.S. The group lacked money, so when Spiess suggested that they join the Adelsverein, they accepted, even though most of them were against the aristocratic system. The Darmstadt probably could never have financed their project alone and, after all, the Adelsverein had free land.

There was trouble within the group from the start. Immediately von Herff took over as leader and that was the exact opposite of the idea of everyone being on equal ground.


The Darmstadters arrived at Indian Point on July 4, 1847, and used 14 carts provided by Spiess. They walked, singing German fraternity songs along the way. Some with money bought horses. It was noted that none of them knew any English except von Herff.

When they arrived in New Braunfels they camped outside the Sophienburg (headquarters of the Adelsverein). Not to waste time before leaving for the Llano, they bought 500 acres of land two and a half miles away from NB (location later became Danville). Here they planted vegetables and grapes, built log cabins and called the area the Darmstadt Farm.


On Sept 1, one month later, the group left for Fredericksburg. Gustav Schleicher stayed behind to run the farm in Comal County. Reaching the north bank of the Llano, they named the place Bettina after the liberal writer Bettina von Arnim, the woman who inspired the movement. There they built a large log building where all slept on camp beds and began their utopian experiment. There was no Indian problem because John Meusebach had already made a treaty with the Indians and the Comanches received medical help from von Herff. He had actually removed cataracts from the eyes of one of the Comanche chiefs. For that, the chief presented the doctor with a 14 year old captured girl from Mexico who would later become the wife of Hermann Spiess.


After less than a year, the utopian experiment was doomed to failure because it was humanly impossible to live up to its own ideals. The professionals in the group wanted to direct and order and not work. The laborers and mechanics could not see the justice in what was happening and so they did nothing. The educated men didn’t know farming, and just wanted to hunt and read classical literature. Most did not want to take orders from Herff and Spiess. Within the organization, discord arose over ownership of property.

As other utopian experiments had done, Bettina failed. By 1848, only eight people were left. In the U.S. between 1663 and 1860, one source claimed that there were 130 idealistic utopian communities attempted. Bettina was the first in Texas. And so, the Darmstadt utopia rose and fell.

What happened to the forty 40s? Some went back to Germany, some to other communities in the hill country and some came back to the Darmstadt Farm in Comal County. Many joined together with another freethinker group called the “48ers” who arrived after the 1848 Revolution in Germany. Being strongly against slavery, the Texas freethinkers joined together during the Civil War against the Confederacy. Individuals from these freethinker groups did much to further education in Texas, to further freedom for all and to advance scientific advancements for all.

Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels addresses a group of fraternity members in Heidelberg. Next to him is Ferdinand von Herff. Artist – Patricia S. Arnold

Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels addresses a group of fraternity members in Heidelberg. Next to him is Ferdinand von Herff. Artist – Patricia S. Arnold

Journals are important to history

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

A designated post office can reveal a great deal about an area and about who lived there. In Comal County the Spring Branch Post Office was at one time headed by Gottlieb Elbel and he had the forethought to keep a journal from 1867, when he became postmaster to 1872. From the journal, we learn who lived in the area, what they were interested in by what publications they subscribed to, and many more tiny insignificant things mentioned.

It’s hard to keep a journal. You don’t believe that? How many of you started a diary? How many continued one?

When the emigrants from Germany came to Texas with the Adelsverein, many moved on to the hill country surrounding New Braunfels. Routes into the hill country were along the waterways and creeks towards Western Comal County. Many land owners purchased their land from holders of Spanish or Mexican land grants, or from land speculators.

These small settlements were relatively self-sufficient with their own sawmill, gristmill, blacksmith shop, stores, schools, church and cemetery. They also developed a post office along postal routes which connected with New Braunfels, San Antonio, Blanco, Boerne, and the rest of the hill country.

One of those settlements was 23 miles NW of NB on the Spring Branch Creek and was consequently called Spring Branch. “The Branch”, as it is sometimes referred to, was known to have clear, cold water year round and land around the creek became the home of the Knibbe, Elbel, Porter, Horne, Fuhrmann, Imhoff, Beierle, Acker, Kriegner, Willke, Monken, Becker, Bergmann, Moos, Neugebauer, Knebel, Bartels, Esser, Specht, Bender, Busch, Kretzel, Stahl, Gass, Jonas, Rust, Schaeferkoeter and Wunderlich families. Many of those names are still familiar in the area. Brenda Anderson Lindemann did extensive research on families in the area in her book, “Spring Branch & Western Comal County Texas”. A revision of this book will be on the market shortly.

In 1858, the first Spring Branch post office was established with Louis Willke as post master. The next postmaster was Dr. Charles Porter in 1860, and his untimely death in 1861, closed the Post Office. As a result of Texas seceding from the Union and joining the Confederacy, all US government post offices were closed. The Comal Ranch, a Confederate post, about a mile from Spring Branch was designated as the post office and remained the area’s post office until after the Civil War in 1865.

After the war, a post office was opened in New Braunfels and Spring Branch residents had to rely on notices in the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung that mail had arrived in their name and that they were to pick it up at the post office in NB. Two years later in 1867, Gottlieb Elbel became the postmaster in Spring Branch out, of his house.

Elbel had arrived in Texas from Germany in 1849. He met and married Christine Zeh who was a waitress aboard the ship, “Gallant Flora” on which both were traveling. Arriving in NB, the couple was married by Rev. Louis Ervendberg of the German Protestant Church. After a short stay in NB, the couple moved to Spring Branch. They built a two room house where they raised seven children. Mrs. Elbel died giving birth to the 8th child. Gottleib then married the widow Auguste Wehe and together they had four more children.

Now the Journal. Gottleib Elbel kept a post journal from the time he became postmaster until 1872 when he ended his term. In the two-room house with all the family, he also ran the post office.

The first mail arrived on August 27, 1867 between New Braunfels and Fredericksburg by way of Spring Branch. Young 22-year-old Adolph Jonas delivered the mail on horseback and continued to do that for eleven more years. A coachline was established from Austin to Blanco to Fredericksburg and San Saba, however, Jonas delivered the mail six more years from NB to Blanco.

Here is a sample of what is in the Journal. Col. Charles Power, the 1862 postmaster at Comal Ranch during the Civil War, subscribed to the following publications: “Weekly Picayune” out of New Orleans, “Texas State Gazette” from Austin, “New York Tribune” from New York, “San Antonio Weekly Herald”, “The World” out of New York, and “The Two Republics” out of Mexico City. What do these publications tell you about Col. Power? I didn’t see a Sears and Robuck catalog or “Good Housekeeping”. Col. Power sent a letter to Dublin, Great Britain and had to pay 50 cents to send it.

In 1868, Heinrich von Rittberg paid 15 cents postage on a letter received from West Prussia. He sent a letter to Bruchsac Baden via Hamburg, for 10 cents purchase.

After all those children plus the postal business, Gottleib and Augusta built a larger home nearby in 1871. Both buildings are still standing. The property was sold to Robert and Betty McCallum in 1949 and then eventually to the present owner, Harlan Henryson, in 1998. The property of almost three acres has the original 1852 homestead constructed of cedar logs, adobe brick, stone, and cypress, in addition to the 1871 home. The tract also contains the original family cemetery where Gottleib Elbel and family are buried.

Henryson is in the process of applying for a Texas Historical Marker. The people in the Spring Branch area are very proud of their history and just like the Esser’s Crossing Comal County Historical marker, will no doubt celebrate this recognition.

1940s photo with Gottlieb Elbel's 1852 home/Spring Branch Post Office in the center and 1871 home on the right.

1940s photo with Gottlieb Elbel's 1852 home/Spring Branch Post Office in the center and 1871 home on the right.

“The Captured” tells story of captured children

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

The story of the capture of children in 1800s Texas is told through the research of Scott Zesch in his book “The Captured”. Many children were captured by the Plains Indians. In his book, he studies in depth the life and eventual release of nine children, mostly boys under 14, who were captured in the Hill Country by Comanche and Apache tribes.

Remember that the original land grant that the emigrants had with the Adelsverein was that they were granted 320 acres for a family and 160 acres for a single male in the three-million-acre Fisher-Miller grant between the Llano and Colorado rivers known as the San Saba. Now remember that Prince Carl found out from Ranger Jack Hayes that this piece of land was way too far from the coast and it was dangerous because it was the prime hunting grounds of the Comanche.

Prince Carl decided that he needed to make arrangements for a stopping place. New Braunfels was chosen but instead of just a stopping place, it became the final destination. Here the emigrants were given a half-acre lot and 10 acre farm lot. This decision led to the unhappiness of the settlers due to the discrepancy of the number of acres that they were promised.

John Meusebach who took Prince Carl’s place as commissioner general, lead a group to what would become Fredericksburg. Many more emigrants had landed at the coast and he had to find a place for them.

Fredericksburg was located south of the San Saba grant. To open up this territory, Meusebach called for a treaty between the Comanche chiefs and the Germans. Meusebach was the one qualified to do this – smart, charismatic and persuasive. He was successful with these 20 chiefs. The problem was that the treaty was only with a small number of chiefs and not all of them. In other words, each chief was autonomous for his tribe only and there was no “big chief” for all of the Comanches. Around the Civil War and immediately after, the Hill Country faced many Indian atrocities.

In New Braunfels and Comal County, there were Lipan, Tonkawa, Karankawa, Waco, and occasional visits from the Comanche. A few killings were recorded, but locals found most of the behavior more frightening and annoying than dangerous.

Hermann Seele witnessed a gruesome scene as he was traveling from the coast to New Braunfels in 1845. Right outside of Seguin, he experienced a Texas rainstorm which broke up a cannibalistic orgy by Tonkawa Indians in the Guadalupe River bottom. They had boiled and fried flesh and feasted on a Waco warrior. The squaws said that by eating this delicious meat of a warrior, their own offspring would be as brave as the Waco.

Lt. Oscar von Claren who was later murdered by Comanches on his way back from Austin writes to his sister of visiting the encampment of the Tonkawa, some 500 men, women, and children. Witnessing a ceremony inside a tent brought a menacing feeling to von Claren – the monotonous lamentations, the dull hollow drum, the senseless rattle of gourds and the earnest faces of the Indians brought on this foreboding. He went outside only to witness happy children playing around a tall pole on which hung the arm and leg of a Waco warrior.

Ferdinand Lindheimer tells of a Tonkawa camp on the Guadalupe above New Braunfels. One day the Tonkawa were celebrating because they had killed an enemy warrior and they cooked the flesh.

In spite of these cannibalistic practices, most of the relations with the Indian tribes in Comal County were tolerable, but not so in the Hill Country.

Zesch’s book tells of the captivity of children in the Hill Country, some for only months, and most for years. In spite of the terrible lives these children endured,all had a hard time readjusting to their family life once they were returned. Some even voluntarily reunited with their Indian captives.

Zesch tells the story of Rudolph Fischer (13), Banc Babb (10), Dot Babb (14), Minnie Caudle, released after five months, Temple Friend (7), Adolph Korn (10), Hermann Lehmann (11) brothers Clinton (10), and Jeff Smith (8). He covers subjects such as where and when they were captured, their individual lives in captivity, readjustment to white society, religious views, and more.

Understanding the “Indianization” of the captives has long been a subject of study. One reason that seems feasible is that the captive liked the freedom and adventure of the Indian culture. Their life on the frontier was monotonous labor. Zesch says, “The Comanche and Apache not only received the child captives warmly and without prejudice, they also spent much time training them, making them feel significant in tribal society”. Anyone who has a child who played “Cowboys and Indians” would understand this fascination of Indian life over frontier life.

These captives had mostly good things to say about the Indians who became their adopted families. They seemed to understand the motives and superstitions of the Indians. They admired the Comanche character and tribal laws.

Zesch tells the captives’ stories in a straightforward way and makes no judgment. Read the book and see what you think.

Meusebach’s treaty with 20 Comanche chiefs on March 1st and 2nd, 1847. Painted in 1927 by Mrs. Lucy Marschall, one of the daughters of Meusebach.

Meusebach’s treaty with 20 Comanche chiefs on March 1st and 2nd, 1847. Painted in 1927 by Mrs. Lucy Marschall, one of the daughters of Meusebach.